Agenda & Speakers

Meet the Finalists: Q&A with the Loyalty360 Customer Award Finalists

Above all else, Customer Expo is an intersection of two key objectives: recognizing top loyalty brands with our Customer Awards, and offering sessions that present crucial insight needed to move the industry forward. This panel seeks to combine the two, as attendees will hear from some of our 2017 Customer Award finalists in a panel discussing the challenges, triumphs, and trends that have emerged in this changing vertical.


Brian Popekla, Senior Vice President of Customer & Partner Care,

Brian Popelka, as senior vice president of supplier and customer care, is responsible for the strategic direction and operational effectiveness of Overstock's award- winning customer care department. Under his direction, the department has repeatedly ranked in the top four of the former NRF Foundation/American Express Customer Choice Awards, and earned the Gartner Gold Award and the 2011 Stevie Award for the Retail Customer Service Department of the Year. Popelka also oversees all relations with the company's drop-ship fulfillment partners.

Popelka has held several positions since joining the Overstock in 2002, including business to business manager, director of the books, media, movies and games department, and vice president of customer care. In these roles, Popelka has contributed greatly to the success of Overstock, helping to set the tone of the company's culture while at the same time spearheading development of a media channel, travel site, and auto sales site.

Popelka holds a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Broadcasting, Film and History from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Eliot Hamlisch, VP Worldwide Loyalty and Partnerships, Wyndham Hotel Group

Eliot Hamlisch serves as vice president, worldwide loyalty and partnerships at Wyndham Hotel Group, one of the world’s leading hotel brand franchisors and hotel management services providers with more than 8,100 hotels across 79 countries under 19 brands. In his role, Hamlisch oversees Wyndham Rewards, the company’s award-winning guest loyalty program, as well its co-brand credit card, marketing partnerships, multi-brand advertising, and customer acquisition and retention efforts.
Named a best hotel rewards program for the past three consecutive years by U.S. News and World Report, Wyndham Rewards is the only loyalty program of its kind to offer members a guaranteed 1,000 points with every qualified stay and flat redemption rate of 15,000 points per room per night at more than 30,000 hotels, condos and homes around the world.
Previously, Hamlisch served as Wyndham’s head of global sales, overseeing a team of over 100 sales professionals tasked with generating more than $1B in annual revenue across the company’s worldwide hotel portfolio. He joined the organization in 2016 as vice president of sales innovation.

Prior to Wyndham, Hamlisch spent three years leading sales strategy and operations Starwood Hotels and Resorts, where he was responsible for developing, executing and supporting strategic initiatives to drive profitable growth across the company’s North American portfolio.

Earlier in his career, Hamlisch held a number of strategic planning, business development and customer engagement positions with Deloitte Consulting and American Express Company. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and received his Master's in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

Samuel Johnson, VP Global Marketing, Customer Loyalty & Insights, Ryder

Samuel Johnson is the Vice President of marketing for Ryder System, Inc., a $6.4B FORTUNE 500® transportation and supply chain solutions company with more than 26,000 employees.  Mr. Johnson is responsible for all aspects of Customer Loyalty and Market Intelligence for Ryder.
Mr. Johnson joined Ryder 2005 as a Senior Manager, Strategy & Development, and then became part of the FMS Sales & Marketing team as Director of Customer Retention prior to his current role.
Throughout his career, Mr. Johnson has held leadership roles in several fortune 500 companies. Starting at a Coca-Cola bottler and beverage distributor, and then as a management consultant with A.T. Kearney Inc.  
Mr. Johnson holds an MBA in Marketing & Supply Chain Management from Michigan State University and a B.Sc. (Hons) in Engineering from the University of the West Indies.  He serves on the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami and also on the board of governors for the National Private Truck Council.  

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